The author with your initials challenge took me an embarrassing amount of time to find a book for. None of the authors with my initials seemed particularly interesting to me, until a few weeks ago when Mynette told me I really needed to read S. E. Hinton’s classic coming-of-age story, The Outsiders. In addition to being intrigued by her recommendation, I also realized that Hinton shares my first and middle initials. In the weeks since then, the book has come up a couple of times with other people, and whenever I would admit to never having read it, the response was always a confused “You’ve never read The Outsiders?”
Having finally read The Outsiders, I now understand everyone’s reaction. I’m actually embarrassed that I hadn’t read it before.
Going into this novel, I actually knew very little about it, except that it was a coming-of-age story set in 1960s Tulsa and that it was about adolescent gangs. So, I was refreshingly unspoiled, as far as classic books go, concerning the plot and characters. Between the protagonist’s engaging narration, the plot’s fast pace, and the novel’s relatively short length, it’s a very quick read. I got absorbed in the book pretty quickly from its first line: “”When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home.”
Though I’ve read several other books that deal with much of the same subject matter–juvenile delinquents, turf war, social class conflict, and dysfunctional families–I think what sets this one apart is how realistic and vivid the characters are. In the beginning, when the protagonist, 14-year-old Ponyboy, rapidly introduces readers to his two older brothers who raise him and their ragtag group of friends, I was secretly worried that I was going to have a hard time keeping track of everybody. (I had just finished reading a book where I couldn’t tell 2 of the protagonist’s 3 brothers apart, so this is a valid concern.)
But I was pleasantly surprised that within just a matter of chapters, Hinton had developed all of them enough as characters that I had no trouble remembering what differentiated “Two-Bit” from “Dally” and Johnny. And even beyond that, I actually became invested in all of them as characters. I’ve mentioned before that I tend to find secondary characters more interesting than protagonists, but I actually really liked Ponyboy as a character. In addition, I liked how believable his interactions were with his brothers and his friends. Hinton realistically portrays the ups-and-downs of family and friends–the easy camaraderie as well as the squabbles.
Thanks again for the recommendation, Mynette! If you haven’t read this book–or if it’s been awhile since you did read it–I suggest you give it a try.
*Ebook and audiobook also available on Libby.
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